Welcome to Fire20, a new weekly series that celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club by making deep dives into the team’s history. This week we look back at the Ring Of Fire’s inaugural.
Let’s take a step back from the on-field action that we’ve been reviewing over the last several weeks. Instead, I would like to focus on one aspect of the 2003 Supporters Shield, Eastern Conference championship season that often goes overlooked.
I’m talking about the Ring Of Fire.
The Ring Of Fire is a distinctive Hall of Fame tribute that’s meant to honor members of the Chicago Fire who have shown “exceptional service and contributed to the success and culture of the organization.” It is an award that essentially deems a current or former member of the club as “Mister Fire” and should be considered one of the highest honors that an individual can receive for their off-field actions.
In 2003 the Fire welcomed Peter Nowak to their Naperville home at Cardinal Stadium to honor him as the first inductee of the Ring Of Fire. The Fire’s website states that he was recognized because he “exceeded all expectations in the club’s inaugural season of 1998, leading by example with his intelligent and gritty play and natural leadership abilities.”
The former Poland captain was an instant leader for the Fire, and his service to the club has proven to be invaluable. He was the club’s first ever international signing, and set the stage for numerous other player acquisitions that have shaped the history of the club.
Nowak’s name doesn’t ring a bell? Well, one, you should be questioning why you’re reading this Chicago Fire-centric blog about Chicago soccer, and two, please watch the following video to educate yourself about a true Fire legend.
Other individuals who have been inducted into the Ring Of Fire include:
- Frank Klopas, 2004
- Lubos Kubik, 2005
- Peter Wilt, 2006
- Bob Bradley, 2007
- Chris Armas, 2009
- C.J. Brown, 2012
- Ante Razov, 2015
Recognizing the contributions and the importance of players and staff members to the club is something that I believe to be vital to building the culture of an organization. The Fire’s willingness to recognize those people who helped make the club great is something that should not be downplayed. As important as it is to always be looking ahead, organizations in general, but especially a soccer club, should never forget their roots.
After all, how different would Fire history be without the names on that list?